Ellen Pitt Beardsley



W. J. Hawker


Ellen Pitt Beardsley


Photograph, albumen,




Like Jane, Lady Wilde (1821–1896), the mother of Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), who had a career in the arts (publishing poetry as “Speranza”) and who nurtured her son’s ambitions, Aubrey Beardsley’s mother greatly influenced his future. Ellen Pitt (1846–1932) was an accomplished musician from a well-off family in Brighton and a woman with a socially defiant streak. When her ne’er-do-well husband Vincent Beardsley (1839–1909) failed to provide for her and their two children—Mabel (1871–1916) and Aubrey (1872–1898), both born in Brighton—she served as a stabilizing force, financially and emotionally. She taught Aubrey piano and encouraged his love of music and theatre, laying the groundwork for his later fascination with the world of Wagnerian opera, which resulted in his outrageously erotic novel, the unfinished Under the Hill, a.k.a. Venus and Tannhäuser.


From the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press